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Shanthni Balu swears flowers have a secret language. All you have to do is to listen carefully and they will whisper their secrets to you, she says. Shanthni shares some of them.

“When I look back at my childhood, I remember my grandmother often plucked things off plants and added them to syrups, sweets and other concoctions. I wonder why we don’t make our own juices and syrups using edible flowers and herbs available in such plenty.”

Shanthni shares a delicious experience. “I was at a wedding and the caterer insisted I try the kanagambaram dosai and adai.” All you have to do is grind the flowers with the batter.

Shanthni picks five edible flowers, easy to grow and commonly available. They are the Hibiscus, Rose (heirloom variety such as Edward), Moringa flowers (drumstick), Roselle (gongura) and Basil flowers.

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It is perfect to prepare tea, soups, powders . The tea is said to lower LDL cholesterol levels, is good for a common cold and helps digestion. The flower can be dried and stored and used in jams, baking cakes, muffins and breads.

For hibiscus tea, place the dried hibiscus flowers in an empty pot, pour boiling water in it, allow to steep for five minutes, strain the tea and add sweetener of your choice (try honey or palm sugar) and drink.

For a refreshing summer drink, take 20 gm of spearmint or mint, five gm of fresh hibiscus flowers, herbs such as lemongrass, thyme, and crossandra. Cut them up, pour boiling water on them, cover and steep for 15 minutes. Strain when still warm. Add honey, stir well. Cool and serve cold with ice. Drink within 24 hours.

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An endearing memory of Shanthni is making Gulkand with her granny. “Here is what I learnt from her,” she says. Wash and dry the rose petals. Arrange a layer of petals in a ceramic jar (I use a Chettinad jadi), top with a layer of granulated sugar (I use palm sugar), and keep alternating the layers till the jar is full.

Close the lid lightly and keep in sun for seven hours a day for about a month. Every alternate day, mix the ingredients with a wooden spatula. At the end of four weeks, your gulkand is ready . You can store it in a refrigerator and use.

Gulkand is cooling and perfect in hot summers as it prevents sunstroke. However, not recommended for diabetics.

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Moringa Oleifera

All parts of the drumstick tree — leaves, buds, flowers, bark, fruit and root — are edible. They contain calcium and potassium . You can use the flowers in soups, salads, or fry them and add to dishes along with dals and lentils, in omelettes and seafood . But eat in moderation, as it can have a laxative effect.

Moringa flowers can either be dried in the shade or in the oven under low temperature and stored to make tea. Steep the flowers in hot water for five minutes, to get a distinctive flavoured brew that is sweetened with honey or sugar. Drink when there is a hint of an approaching cold.

It is supposed to boost the immune system and treat sore throats. It is said to help lactating mothers, reduce menstrual cramps and bloating.

A handful of fresh drumstick flowers slightly sautéed and added to dosa, adai and rotis helps enhance the taste.

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Roselle (Gongura flowers)

Make jams and crushes with the Roselle. It is high in vitamin C and perfect to prevent cough and cold. It is also said to prevent mouth ulcers and relieve heart burn. It also facilitates urination. But consult your doctor first.

For the jam, boil four cups of petals in enough water to soften them. Add sugar and cook till it gets a thick consistency.

Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Transfer to a glass jar. I sometimes add strawberries or West Indian cherries that I grow in my garden.

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Basil flowers

Layer fresh cleaned basil flowers in a glass jar and cover with red or white vinegar. Let it infuse for a week. Strain and store the liquid to use in juices and salad dressings.

The flowers add flavour as a garnish in salads. It works beautifully in tea as well.

The flowers of the basil have a milder flavour than the leaves. If you use them either fresh or dried you get great bursts of flavour. I personally love adding basil flower to hot pasta.

Petal theory

Make sure you know which flower is edible before you consume it. Avoid if you know pesticides have been used.

Edible flowers can be used in baking, candy, syrups, salads, teas or as a pretty garnish.

Grow your own flowers so that they are clean, safe and chemical-free.

You can easily grow them in a garden or even in containers.

Early mornings are the best time to harvest flowers.

Wash the flowers under water to get rid of insects and dust . Then dry on a cloth or paper napkin.

Usually, it is the petals that are edible, not the stem or pistil.

Scent with love

Mirza Ghalib made sure he perfumed himself with ittar hina before he sallied forth to meet his sweetheart. Ittar is still made with flowers and sacred plants that are allowed to infuse their delicate fragrance into water or oil.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2021 5:25:40 PM |

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